Of Books and Board Games | What Determines Success?

In light of yesterday’s comparison of life to a game called Fluxx, I thought that a discussion of this article from NPR would be appropriate. Specifically, this part:

What accounts for the success and longevity of certain board games? “These cross-generational games typically are enjoyed by those who are young and old,” says Mary Pilon, author of the recently published The Monopolists — a book about the history of Monopoly. Popular board games “have an element of role-playing involved and give us a context to do things that we can’t typically do in real life. ”

She also cites the game-design mantra of technology pioneer Nolan Bushnell, “which I think applies to board games, as well. … Good games must be easy to play, but difficult to master.”

Though the article is specifically talking about the elements of successful board games, these are the same elements that go into successful fiction or well-written memoirs.

mr_moneybagsGood fiction and memoirs help us see the world through the eyes of the protagonist. We are able to lose ourselves in the role, able to take on the mannerisms and thought patterns.

Good books also allow us to do things that we can’t do in real life. Heaven help us if there were as many murderers, fiends, and hell-bent wizards running about in the real world as there are in books. Fiction gives us a means by which we can rise to each occasion with the right words, the right actions, and the right magic spells. In books, right usually prevails. In real life, less so.

By combining these two traits, we see the true power of good books. They give us someone we can relate to, and they inspire us that justice is a worthwhile pursuit.

The last element mentioned in the board game article is that successful games are easy to play, but difficult to master. Some authors make writing seem so easy. Read any beloved children’s book and you may be tempted to walk away thinking that you could have written it. But sit down with a blank paper staring at you, and you realize that simplicity is a tool for the masters.

That is the trick. Good writers make it look easy, like child’s play.


I am in(to) Fluxx.

My wife and I are going through another season of change in our lives. Within the last month, I started my new job at Discovery House. And in a week, my wife will start her new job as senior accountant at a business right down the road from me. We’ll be able to carpool again, but even better than that, we feel like these new positions are good steps forward for us.

And now that we both have new jobs in the area, it is unlikely that we’ll be moving south (please pray with us that Michigan will become a more tropical place), so we’re looking at new housing options too. The point in all of this is that in our lives at the moment, change is the constant.

But that is okay. We were prepared for change.

We have Fluxx skills in our back pockets.

4346-thickboxWhat is Fluxx? It is a game where the rules keep changing. It is perhaps the best analogy for life as represented by gameplay that I’ve seen (yes, even better than the game of Life).

Not only do the rules change, but the goal of the game changes as well, so strategy skills only get you so far. You need to be able to make the most of the opportunities that you have, but at the same time, you need to roll with the punches when the rules and goals change.

That’s the part that I think is a lot like our lives at the moment. My wife and I have new jobs. We’re looking at new housing options. The rules of our lives are changing. We need to be open to adjusting our strategies, open to new goals. And we need to have fun while we do it.

How do you deal with change?

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Look out! It’s a beautifully done conversation starter about race!
  2. Do you like charts and graphs and Harry Potter? Check this out.
  3. Has science gone too far? A skateboard without a board?!
  4. This is what happens when you fall behind on your writing schedule. HBO makes a hugely popular version of your work and you make a lot of new fans and probably a lot of money and then the show spoils a couple of your plot points before you finish your book. Well, it’s just a good thing that I don’t have cable, I guess.
  5. Tom Hanks being awesome per usual.


Book Review | Edda by Adam Auerbach

Have you ever had an idea for something, and then you go to the store and find that thing on the shelf, even though you’ve never seen that thing available before? I had a very similar experience recently at my local library.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing books for kids featuring the legendary characters of Norse mythology for a little while now. I just love the tales. As they inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to create Middle Earth, and C.S. Lewis to dig into his spirituality, they inspire me with their depth and insight into the human condition (even though they focus primarily on gods and goddesses).

9780805097030And then Adam Auerbach beat me to it. And worse, he did it in a really cute and fun way.

Edda tells the tale of a young Valkyrie from Asgard and her decision to attend school on Earth. But things couldn’t be more different between the life that she is used to among the gods and the rules that she has to follow in the classroom. Using the imagery of Norse legend, Auerbach expertly captures the struggle of all children to adapt to the differences between home life and school life.

This is a perfect book for parents of children who are about to enter school. It is also the perfect book for people who appreciate Norse mythology. Edda is slightly less than the perfect book for people who cannot yet read, but it is still really good because the illustrations are quite endearing.

So instead of pouting about the fact that Auerbach wrote a great book using my beloved characters, I’m going to be encouraged and say that there’s a market for the type of books that I want to write.

Now I just need to learn how to illustrate.

Icebreaker #6 | Do you have any fun holiday traditions?

This is the sixth installment of my Icebreaker series. As we are now past the 1/3 point of the icebreaker questions, celebration is in order. So stand up and shout for joy. Now sit down. Let’s continue. (For further reading, feel free to brush up on the rest of the posts on this blog. There are a few.)

Do you have any fun holiday traditions?

Though I have written about it before, it is always fun to reminisce about holiday traditions. And since I didn’t reference any specific holiday, I’ll talk about more than just what I linked to in that last sentence.

DSC01427For the lazy, the link goes to a post I wrote about how each Christmas, my wife and I buy a new Lego set to use as an ornament for our Christmas tree. Sometime before Christmas, my wife and I set aside some time alone and take turns adding pieces to the Lego set. It is a fun activity to do together, and it supports my love of Lego. Double win!

But there are more holidays than that.

Since Easter is coming up, I’ll cover that next. We didn’t do anything for Easter when the girls were too young to appreciate it. Even now, I think they just like getting gifts. Anyway, it was our goal to not fill their Easter baskets full of candy (because what parents likes the effects of their already hyper children on sugar-fueled destructive sprees?). To that end, we gave them a mix of books, small toys, and a family movie to share. (If you are looking for ideas to fill your kids’ Easter basket this year, click here.)

Before our kids came along (warning, I’m about to be a bit USA-centric here), my wife and I used to head downtown to watch the big fireworks displays on the 4th of July. And though every culture has a 4th of July, not all of them celebrate it with fireworks the way ‘Muricans do. Since the kids came along, we haven’t done this. In order for us to see them as a family, we’d have to go out way after bedtime, and that just isn’t likely to happen.

For Halloween, I don’t know if we’ve done the same thing twice, so anything I say here doesn’t really fit the definition of a tradition. But we usually try to get the girls dressed up for some kind of Halloween trick-or-treat event. This past year, we attended a community thing at a park near our house. Before that, we brought the girls to something that my wife’s work puts on for kids that featured haunted hallways and a ton of candy (of which, in total honesty, I ate the majority).

At Thanksgiving, we do what everyone does. We go around the table to say what we’re thankful for and then we eat way too much. Maybe that’s another American thing. Anyway, it is always good.

That brings us back to Christmas, so I’ll talk about another tradition. We always watch the Dr. Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

And having come full-circle on holidays, it is time for me to ask you: Do you have any fun holiday traditions?

On Marketing Your Book with Blog Swaps & Blog Tours

The following is taken from a project that I’ve been working on at my job. It is part of a resource for authors to use upon the release of their book into the marketplace. But this post is applicable to anyone looking to grow their platform. Enjoy!

Perhaps you have a blog of your own. Here are a couple of ways you can use it:

A blog swap works just like it sounds. Contact a fellow blogger and trade posts. You send a post to them to put up on their site and they send you a post to put up on your blog. This gets your writing in front of their readers and vice-versa. Everyone wins.

blog_swaps_and_blog_toursA blog tour amplifies the effects of a blog swap, and a successful one is months in the making. Where blog swaps are reciprocal, blog tours don’t have to be. Basically, it is a virtual book tour that takes your writing to new audiences on new blogs. You will be sending content (a post, an interview, etc.) to a number of blogs for them to post, then you direct your readers to their blogs. You are basically trading exposure for the participating blogs. The tour can cover any amount of time that you decide.

First, make a list of bloggers whose content would lend itself to your audience and where you can write something that will appeal to their audience. For example, you may want to write a lighthearted post for a blogger who typically writes humorous posts, but you may want to share your writing process on a blog that appeals to a more literary audience. Your goal is to convince the readers of other blogs that they want to read what you’ve written.

You will need to decide for yourself which blogs you will approach. Some authors may focus on only those blogs with large readership. Others may be willing to focus on a more grassroots effort and focus on smaller blogs. To generate the list of bloggers you will ask to feature you in a blog tour, go to the blogs that you read first, ask your Facebook friends who blog, and work out to their connected blogs as long as you think your writing and their readership are a good fit.

I am raising a book lover.

My wife and my youngest daughter are recovering from a cold at the moment. My oldest daughter brought the disease home with her from preschool (we think) about a week ago and it has been cycling through the family. At the moment, I have yet to get sick, but I’m not holding my breath that I won’t.

All that to say that my eldest daughter and I went to church on Sunday by ourselves. Since one-on-one church time is rare as we normally attend family-style, my daughter was a bit more interactive than she would otherwise have been.

The sermon was an introduction to a series about why people attend church, and the pastor asked some questions to the parish and encouraged us to speak up with our answers. To the question, “What is something you like about coming to church?” most people gave the answers that you would expect to hear in church:

  • I like learning about God.
  • I like worship.
  • I enjoy giving back.
  • And so on.

My own answer wasn’t as spiritual, but it was honest. I like going to church to see my friends and to see what is going on in their lives. (Not that I don’t like those other things too, but I knew that other people would say those things.)

I asked my eldest what she liked about coming to church and she answered, “I like that there are books here.” So even if she isn’t spiritually-minded yet, at least she appreciates a place that provides books to read.

And since books are kind of a big thing in Christianity (John 1:1), I don’t think she’s that far off.